Basketball's center position continues to evolve, as increasingly versatile players blur the lines between true "big men" and traditional "forwards."
It's not exactly a new phenomenon in basketball, as players like Bill Laimbeer, Cliff Robinson, Danny Ferry and Toni Kukoc started a trend of 6-foot-10-inch or taller players stretching the floor with their three-point shooting abilities. Whether the NBA adjusted to the way college teams played or vice versa, the trickle-down effect is real, and the "stretch forward" is now a vital part of championship teams.
Ohio State had Jared Sullinger, DeShaun Thomas and LaQuinton Ross play the "four" role in recent years, but all three are under 6-feet, 10-inches tall and didn't affect play on the defensive end. The Buckeyes heavily recruited Myles Turner, but, in the end, he chose Texas. While Thad Matta made the transition to using smaller lineups, he hasn't had a mismatch big man on the perimeter – those guys always seems to end up at Wisconsin.
If the OSU staff wants that kind of player, they won't have to look outside the state's borders.
As confirmed by Eleven Warriors, Ohio State recently offered 2016 Medina recruit Jon Teske. He measured at 6-feet, 11-inches tall without shoes and, according to Team Work AAU coach Dave Logan, has the potential to play on the perimeter in college.
"He's definitely athletic enough, can run the floor well enough, he's got a pretty good shot, especially within about 15 feet," Logan told Eleven Warriors. "I'm sure, as he gets a little bit older and stronger, he'll be able to expand that out to the three-point line. He's got a terrific release on the ball."
Teske impressed Michigan's staff during a recent basketball camp and, shortly thereafter, earned offers from the Wolverines and Buckeyes. Those two schools, in addition to Dayton, are getting an early look at what they hope will be a player with a high offensive ceiling.
"Once he puts on 25 or 30 pounds, that's when we'll really going to be able to tell. In two years, we'll get a better idea of what his ceiling is," Logan said. "He's only going to be in 11th grade, and is far from a full-grown man. He's going to continue to work on the offensive side of things. He's got good post moves, so he can play inside when he needs to. He's got a nice jump-hook, nice baseline jump shot and is a good free throw shooter."
Teske's potential on the offensive end remains untapped, but he is an impact player on the other end of the court.
"He'll continue to expand that offensive portion of his game, but right now his biggest strength is defensively, where he can do so many things in the middle of the paint to alter and block shots," Logan said. "He works really hard on the defensive end to make sure his teammates are taken care of and they trust him, know he's back there."
Amir Williams and Trey McDonald graduate after this season. Temple transfer Anthony Lee is also senior, leaving freshman Dave Bell and Virginia Tech transfer Trevor Thompson as the only two big men on the roster in 2015. Matta would like to add at least one big to round out that year's class (Daniel Giddens?). What Ohio State and others see in Teske's future separates him from any other recruit around his size.
They'll have a chance to further evaluate Teske in July. During the second, third and fourth weekends of the month, coaches are allowed to travel and watch players compete. It falls under the umbrella of three, separate "evaluation periods," running five days each.
Next month, Teske, Logan and Team Work will play at the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis – the squad won the 15U tournament, last year – and at Eddie Ford's Kentucky Hoop Fest and AAU Gold Super Showcase in Louisville.
"Jon's a tough kid, broke his finger earlier in the year, came back and played really well in our last two tournaments. He's healthy again, so, in July, we'll get a good read on how much progress he's made during the summer," Logan said. "That period is going to be big for him."